14 December 2022 |Reference 73/2022
On 9 December 2022, the 21st session of the Assembly State Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened on 5 December 2022, concluded its work in The Hague amid a remarkable representation of Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs), including Al Mezan. The ASP, which serves as the governing body of the Court, meets in full plenary once a year to discuss and decide upon matters key to the future functioning of the ICC. The ASP’s 21st sessions covered many pressing topics, including the ongoing review process of the Court, the election of ASP and ICC officials, and the adoption of the 2023 budget.
Ahead of the session, Al Mezan joined 197 Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations to send two open letters to the ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan and the ASP President Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi. In the letter to Prosecutor Khan, Al Mezan and partners called on him to urgently expedite his investigation into the Situation of Palestine, including the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, and to issue preventive statements to deter Israel’s practices that may contribute to ongoing crimes against humanity and war crimes currently investigated by the Court. In the letter to the ASP President, the organizations called Ms. Fernández de Gurmendi to publicly condemn Israel’s designations and threats against Palestinian CSOs and actively protect the human rights defenders (HRDs) and CSOs cooperating with the ICC.
During and prior to the session, Al Mezan and partners engaged in a number of different advocacy initiatives. On 1 December 2022, Al Mezan, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and Al-Haq held an event entitled “Palestine at the ICC: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” highlighting the lack of progress in the investigation being conducted by the Office of the Prosecutor into the Situation of Palestine. During the event, Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan, said that time in Palestine is counted differently in other situation countries as it is counted by days not weeks or months because every day there are civilians being killed, lands being confiscated, and houses being destroyed. He added that Palestinian human rights organizations are in The Hague to express their disappointment with the lack of action by the Office of the Prosecutor since the opening of an investigation into the Situation in Palestine, for the longer action is not taken, the more casualties there will be in Palestine.
On 6 December 2022, Al Mezan, Al Haq, and PCHR attended Al Jazeera’s press conference, where it was announced that the network submitted a request to the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the context of a wider attack on Al Jazeera and journalists in Palestine. During the conference, Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, said: “It is clear that Israel has a history and de facto state policy of targeting Palestinian journalists like my aunt in order to silence their reporting on Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians. Israeli soldiers are almost never held accountable for their crimes, which creates a culture of impunity that allows for these atrocities to continue. But enough is enough––we must end impunity for Israeli war crimes. It is past time for justice for Shireen and for every Palestinian that has been killed by the Israeli army.”
On 7 December 2022, in parallel with the 21st ASP session, Al Mezan, Al Haq, PCHR, and international partners held a side event on “Countering the Global Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders and Civil Society: What Role for the ICC and States Parties?”. The panel, composed of human rights defenders from various situation countries—including Afghanistan, Kenya, Palestine, and Venezuela—highlighted the need for support for HRDs who face increased attacks and threats by virtue of their cooperation with the Court. In particular, panelists shared their expectations on what the ICC and the ASP should do to support and protect their work to advance justice. On 8 December 2022, Al Mezan, Al Haq, PCHR, Addameer, Defense of Children International – Palestine and other international partners co-hosted another side event in parallel to the ASP on “Equitable Access to Justice: The Case of Palestine”.
During the ASP, PCHR delivered a statement on behalf of Al Mezan and Al Haq calling on the ICC Prosecutor to expedite the investigation into the Situation in Palestine. The three Palestinian organizations added that the situation on the ground is deteriorating year after year, month after month, day after day. During this year alone, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s settler-colonial regime in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Prominent Palestinian Despite all these events happening in one year, not a single statement has been issued by the Office of the Prosecutor concerning the Situation in Palestine.
Finally, on the last day of the ASP, Al Haq delivered a statement on behalf of Al Mezan, PCHR, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice addressing Israel’s arbitrary criminalization of the six Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations and reiterating the responsibility of the ASP to protect Palestinian CSOs and HRDs more generally.
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